There is no underestimating the importance of this afternoon’s football, both at Ibrox and in Livingston.
Celtic are currently plying their trade on the artificial turf at the Macaroni of Gary Holt’s men, while Rangers will later host Hamilton in a card which may just define exactly where both teams are, relative to the season and each other.
Rangers, of course, struggled both home and away against Livi, but on both occasions came through for the three points and cup progression. Celtic struggled on Brian Rice’s side’s artificial surface a few weeks ago.
Should Celtic manage a comfortable win at a venue Rangers were not at their best on, especially after Europe, it may suggest a bit of work remains to be done to close the gap.
If, however, Celtic fail to win or indeed have to graft themselves, it suggests Rangers are much closer to Neil Lennon’s team in all senses than perhaps currently perceived.
It may seem over the top – every 90 minutes is unique, after all.
But the best way to judge teams is by how they both do in the same testing environment.
Celtic didn’t have their best 90 against Hamilton at New Douglas Park on that fake pitch, showing not just Rangers struggle on these rotten surfaces, but today Rangers have a colossal chance to take advantage of Celtic post-Europe and on perilous material and go top of the table.
If Celtic do slip up, or at least find themselves having to work like dogs to get the win at Gary Holt’s patch, Rangers are given a tangible and visible barometer of just where the gap actually is.
As of writing it’s 18 minutes down and no goals, and it’s the home side who have 3 attempts to Celtic’s 1.
This could be a very interesting afternoon…